18 Jan 2008

How to use the direction of Light - part 3

The considered application of light can transform a photograph from the mundane into something with much more visual power. This photograph of an old man is desperately simple – a straightforward head and shoulders – but the power of the photograph comes not only from the man’s interesting face and his direct look into the lens, but from the way his face is lit. In this case from one side - sidelight.

A profound understanding of light is one of the photographer’s greatest assets.

These three photographs are of the same subject and were taken about the same time on the same day, but look how different the it appears just by walking around it and photographing it with the light from different directions.

Front light has been used in A to show all that wonderful red colour – care was needed to avoid the flare coming straight back at me from that glass in the cabin.

The sidelight B has shown the hull of the boat to have form and shape. It’s also given texture to the tussocky grass in the foreground.

The backlight in this picture C has reduced the boat and the objects on it to a series of silhouettes. There’s no colour shown in the subject at all – just outline shapes.

When moving in quite close with the light directly behind you – using frontlight to accentuate the colours of your subject – you are likely to get your own shadow – just like in photo D. Try moving back a couple of paces and zooming in to cut out this unsightly shadow – unless of course it is part of your idea to leave it in. See photo E. You will alter the perspective of you picture a little, but it may be worthwhile.


GlenF said...

You have a lot of excellent 'found' portraits of people with characterful faces. I read your 'Photographing People' set. Do you have tips on how to approach strangers for photos - I find it easier with foreigners than locals.

Philip Dunn said...

Thanks Glen,
There are countless tips and techniques that can be used when out on the streets photographing people.

It is in my mind to write something about this soon.

I always get a real buzz when people first arrive on the Menorca holidays and say 'I don't (can't) like photographing people. By the end of the week they are almost all converts - and some of them are brilliant at it.
It is my favourite subject despite.

GlenF said...

Thanks Philip, that will be an interesting blog topic. Once people agree to pose then positioning them to take advantage of the natural/added light if possible is the thing. How about paying people on the street?